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Under Attack: Freedom of the Press Foundation Cuts Wikileaks Donations

Well, it’s official.  If you’re Julian Assange and your Twitter account goes missing for a day expect all-out pandemonium and a list of conspiracy theories longer than the Texas border.  Meanwhile, if you’re the most persecuted publisher on the planet who has never had to issue a single retraction and your funding is cut off by the very organization that you helped to create specifically to make sure your funding isn’t cut off expect crickets. Okay, maybe not crickets but the fact that there’s been very little said about the Freedom of the Press Foundation’s announcement on Twitter (via Micah Lee) almost three weeks ago stating that the organization would no longer be accepting donations on behalf of Wikileaks after the first of this year feels like an unexpected silence.

So, for those of you that missed it because it didn’t grab a lot of headlines let me give you a head’s up on what’s been happening. The Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF), the brainchild of Julian Assange and John Perry Barlow, decided to part ways with Wikileaks citing a lack of evidence that Wikileaks is suffering from a financial blockade.  Assange addressed the FPF’s move in a letter he later released on pastebin.com but it didn’t stop the FPF board from unanimously voting to cut ties with Wikileaks. Unanimously. Micah Lee later stated that they would continue to fight for the First Amendment rights of Wikileaks “when they’re threatened,” which is the most absurd statement of the century seeing that the FPF is now doing literally nothing to support Julian Assange, Wikileaks, and its staff all of whom have been facing threats from more sides than a ShengShou Megaminx over the course of the last seven years.

According to Assange’s letter, the Freedom of the Press Foundation was established after he met with John Perry Barlow in 2011 at the Frontline Club in London to discuss setting up an organization that would “improve Wikileaks’ prospects for survival.”  At the time, Wikileaks was facing a banking blockade from financial giants such as Bank of America, Visa, Mastercard, Western Union, and Paypal.  On October 24, 2011, they released a statement pointing out that the blockade started within ten days of their 2010 Cablegate publication and that it had eaten up 95% of their revenue. They went on to say that the attacks were “part of a concerted US-based, political attack that included vitriol by senior wing politicans, including assassination calls against Wikileaks staff” and that the blockade was “without democratic oversight or transparency.”  They also noted that the U.S. Secretary of Treasury at the time, Timothy Geithner, announced that there were no grounds to blacklist Wikileaks and that there were “no judgements, or even charges, against Wikileaks or its staff anywhere in the world.”

According to John Perry Barlow, the financial blockade was “the shot heard round the world—this is Lexington,” and online hacking collective, Anonymous, exacted their revenge by launching Operation Avenge Assange in December, 2010, a retaliatorial DDoS attack against companies like MasterCard and Visa.  According to The Guardian the attacks brought down both companies and PayPal subsequently released Wikileaks’ frozen funds.  One activist stated,

“We will fire at anything or anyone that tries to censor Wikileaks, including multibillion-dollar companies such as PayPal…Twitter, you’re next for censoring #WikiLeaks discussion. The major shitstorm has begun.”

And yet here we are in 2018 and the only major shitstorm I see is the one being lodged at Wikileaks and Julian Assange.  Activists that previously supported Assange over the years seem to be turning their backs on him and it’s astounding in light of some of the people who sit on the board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) like Edward Snowden, Laura Poitras, and Glenn Greenwald.  I mean, isn’t this the dream team from the 2013 Snowden-NSA days?  Aren’t these the people who have spoken out against government corruption, illegal surveillance, and free speech ad nauseum over the years?  These are the ones who have seemingly stood by Assange’s side for years only to get caught up in the Russian narrative, the Trump collusion story, and the ridiculous notion that Assange is an alt-right fascist?  Uh…hello g-2.space and Catalonia.  If bizarre comes to mind, you’re not alone.  It’s definitely more than bizarre that a small group of highly intelligent journalists and activists who have worked together in the same organizations, on the same boards, and at the same journalistic outlets that receive funding from many of the same sources seem to be buying a load of shiz being shoveled by the Deep State lock, stock, and barrel.  Or is it?

Ever since Wikileaks’ alleged source, former U.S. soldier Bradley Manning, now known as Chelsea Manning, may have started communicating with them in late 2009, Wikileaks has been seriously targeted so the FPF’s move to stop processing Wikileaks’ donations seems like the usual walk in the park.  What I’m saying is that perhaps this small group of intellects that have dominated the journalistic scene on government surveillance and free speech ever since Edward Snowden passed along those NSA documents to Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras in a Hong Kong hotel room are the ones that have been infiltrated, compromised, under U.S. threats, or all of the above.  Perhaps the individuals that fund these journalists are the ones driving the car and the CIA is currently riding shotgun.  As @AssangeFreedom put it, “The least likely place to be taken over by the CIA is @Wikileaks!” so for those of you pointing your finger in that direction my next three posts might help you reevaluate who exactly may have been infiltrated.

Laura Poitras

Let’s start with FPF board member and documentary darling, Laura Poitras. She grew up in a privileged household outside of Boston and when I say privileged I mean that her parents once donated twenty million dollars to M.I.T.’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research back in 2008, so yeah, I mean that kind of privileged.  By her early twenties she was working as a sous chef in San Francisco until she moved to New York in 1992 to pursue filmmaking. In 1996, she graduated from the New School for Public Engagement in New York, the same year that George Soros launched the Soros Documentary Fund.  Six years later, the Soros Documentary Fund was integrated into Sundance’s programs and became known as the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program. The Open Society Foundation donated five million dollars to Sundance’s documentary program in 2009 and 2014 and Poitras went on to receive some of that funding for her documentaries.  She also developed and maintained a close relationship with former Soros Documentary Fund Director and Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program Director, Diane Weyermann, calling her a “dear friend” during her 2014 appearance at the 52nd New York Film Festival.

In 2002, Laura Poitras established her own film company, Praxis Films, Inc. and received funding that same year from the Robert and Joyce Menschel Foundation.  Not familiar with the Menschels?  Robert was the Senior Director of Goldman Sachs, the same investment firm that you might remember as an all-time favorite of Hillary Clinton’s.  It should come as no surprise then that according to the WashingtonPost, Robert and Joyce supported “all six of the Clintons’ federal races” with donations ranging from $100,000-500,000.  As a side note that’s not so side, they’ve also donated to the Freedom of the Press Foundation but who’s keeping count, right?

In 2004, the Robert and Joyce Menschel Foundation and the Sundance Institute funded Poitras’ documentary My Country My Country; the first in a series of three films which later included The Oath and Citizenfour, both of which were also funded by Sundance.  According to a review in The New York Times, My Country My Country was a “mournful look at the chaos of Iraq under American occuption” and it was shortly after its 2006 premiere in Berlin, Germany that Poitras began being stopped at the U.S. border.  In a 2012 interview with Amy Goodman from DemocracyNow.org, Poitras stated that she had been detained at least forty times and according to a Declaration filed by Poitras in the case Poitras v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security et al, border agents made copies of her reporter’s notebooks and documents from her luggage on at least ten separate occasions.  She also noted that in 2011 she started being stopped during international travel, as well.

She wrote,

“Beginning in mid-2011, when I began work on a documentary about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, U.S. authorites started to question and search me in Europe before I was able to board planes returning to the United States, in addition to detaining, questioning, and searching me upon my arrival.

In the fall of 2012, I moved to Berlin, Germany, as a direct result of the harassment I had experienced at the U.S. border. I moved because, despite taking extreme security measures to encrypt and protect my source material, I felt that I could not fulfill my obligation as a journalist to protect my sources.”

On April 8, 2012, Glenn Greenwald published an article in Salon titled, “U.S. Filmmaker Repeatedly Detained At Border” in which he detailed Poitras’ saga.  Calling Poitras’ case as “perhaps the most extreme,” he mentioned her early work in Iraq filming My Country My Country, her aspirations to complete a trilogy about “The War on Terror,” and that her work was being hampered “by the constant harassment, invasive searches, and intimdation tactics to which she is routinely subjected whenever she re-enters her own country.”  Although Poitras has always been less than transparent about the questions she’s been asked at the border, Greenwald reported in the article that she was interrogated about where she went, who she met or spoke with and that “they have exhibited a particular interest in finding out for whom she works.”  He also mentioned that her her laptop, camera, and cellphone were seized and sometimes “not returned for weeks, with the contents presumably copied.”  He wrote, “She now avoids traveling with any electronic devices…And she simply will not edit her films at her home out of fear–obviously well-grounded – that government agents will attempt to search and seize the raw footage.”

Greenwald and Poitras

In her court filing Poitras noted that a petition signed by a group of documentary filmmakers was sent to the Department of Homeland Security protesting the treatment to which she had be subjected.  She also stated that her airport detentions ceased after Greenwald published his article, citing sometime around June, 2012.  In fact, she specifically attributes Greenwald’s article as the reason the detentions stopped because one article written by one journalist will always stop the U.S. government said no one ever who’s followed Russiagate.  Poitras wrote,

“My subjection to airport detentions ended in around June 2012, after journalist Glenn Greenwald published an article about my experiences on Salon.com on April 8, 2012.”

And

“…my routine subjection to heightened security screening during domestic travel resumed again a few years later and did not fully cease until June 2012, after publication of the Salon article.”

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) which was created by FPF board member John Perry Barlow, Poitras filed FOIA requests with multiple federal agencies in 2014 in an effort to uncover the reasons why she had been stopped so many times over the course of six years.  As one EFF attorney put it, “We are suing the government to force it to disclose any records that would show why security officials targeted Poitras for six years, even though she had no criminal record and there was no indication that she posted any security risk.”  So yeah, we get it.  Article after article, interview after interview, the public was told that Poitras really had no idea why she was being detained minus the fact it might have pertained to her reporting and documentaries about post-911 surveillance and the war on terror.  When the government refused to cough up any documents, Poitras sued them a year later and found out exactly why she had been stopped at the border so many times.  According to the U.S. government (here and here),

“In 2004, the U.S. military received information pertaining to American independent film maker, Laura Poitras, possibly being involved in an ambush on U.S. Forces near Baghdad that resulted in the death of one U.S. solider [sic] and serious injuries of several others. The military was informed that Poitras watched and filmed the ambush from on top of a nearby building. Poitras later confirmed that she was on the building working on a documentary that focused on the 2005 Iraqi election. In 2006, the FBI received further information about Poitras’s involvement, including the possibility that she had prior knowledge of the ambush and purposely chose not to report it. As a result, the U.S. military requested an investigation of Poitras because of her possible involvement with anti-coalition forces during her time in Iraq as an independent media representative.”

And yes, I know what you’re thinking:  “But…but…maybe Poitras didn’t know any of this until it came to light in the government’s 2016 court documents?”  And yeah, I hear ya.  But here’s the thing:  John Bruning published a book entitled The Devil’s Sandbox:  With the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry at War in Iraq in 2006 which detailed a U.S. soldier’s account that “Poitras had foreknowledge of a November 20, 2004 ambush of U.S. troops but did nothing to warn them.”  Additionally, after reaching out to Poitras, the author claimed that Poitras admitted to him during email exchanges that she had indeed been filming on top of a building when the ambush occurred.  What’s more, government documents show that Poitras and the local Iraqi leader she had been living with were questioned by a U.S. Lieutenant Colonel “as to their whereabouts during the ambush and whether the ambush had been filmed.”  Poitras denied filming it.  If anything, when the border stops started in 2006, Poitras was more than aware that people were asking questions about her involvement in the ambush.

So let’s break this down. According to the U.S. government, Poitras was stopped dozens of times essentially for filming at the exact time and location where U.S. troops were ambushed.  Sketchy?  Under the circumstances which were that she had been hanging out, living with, and filming with local Iraqi leaders, yeah, it seems plausible she was told by the Iraqis—at minimum—to stick around for awhile because something might be happening. Then there’s Bruning’s book, the soldier’s story, and the government’s statement that Poitras admitted she was on top of the building.

Were they all lying that she was filming?  Sure, anything’s possible but why then didn’t Poitras publicly address or deny the accusations?  Why play dumb for all of these years?  Look at this 2017 headline from artnet.com, “Laura Poitras Has Finally Learned Why She Was Detained at Airports for Years.”  That’s just absurd.  Of course Poitras had an idea why she was being stopped.  The FBI closed their investigation on Poitras just last month after  “coming up empty-handed,” (insert eye roll) and according to the EFF, Poitras is innocent of any wrong doing because “the government never sought her footage from that day, which shows she did not film an ambush.”  I’m pretty sure that logic is tragically flawed so let’s move on to an earlier EFF article where they don’t deny that she was, indeed, filming in the neighborhood when the ambush took place…

The bottom line here is if this bright and talented investigative reporter really expects anyone to believe that after being questioned by the U.S. military back in 2004, a book was published in 2006 detailing Poitras’ presence in a neighborhood where Iraqi forces ambushed U.S. troops, and being detained and questioned at least forty times at airports that she was never able to glean any information as to why she was being stopped?

Then there’s Poitras’ statement that she moved to Berlin because she felt she could no longer protect sources specifically due to the border stops.  I mean, it really took six years of border stops where her laptop, camera, cellphone, reporter’s notebooks, documents, and credit cards were seized, copied and sometimes “not returned for weeks,” to realize that maybe, just maybe she was putting her sources at risk and she should stop travelling with all of her shiz?  What?  And what’s with this @AnonScan video that shows screenshots of what appears to be government reports pertaining to two different border stops of Poitras (These documents could be from the same stop, I’m pretty much guessing at this point that it’s two different ones).  In the first report it says that Poitras’ documents were photocopied and in the second report it states that Poitras did not give her consent to have her things searched.  So did she give consent during some stops and not others?  Did the authorities search and photocopy her things without her consent or were they never actually searched?  Are these documents from the same stop and now we have conflicting information?

What’s more, for all her griping about the invasive detainments, Poitras never stopped traveling to the United States.  In 2013, she became a visiting artist at Duke University Center and in 2014, she returned to the U.S. at least a handful of times for interviews and appearances about her documentary Citizenfour.  In 2015, she actually moved back to the U.S. to edit her documentary, Risk, breaking her agreement with Julian Assange that she wouldn’t edit the film in the States.  Remember when Greenwald mentioned back in 2012 that Poitras wouldn’t edit her films at her home out of fear that the government would seize the raw footage, a fear that was, as he put it, “obviously well-grounded?”  It seems that Poitras never actually stopped taking the risk when it came to her sources.

And then there’s Julian Assange. By the fall of 2012, Poitras had already been filming Assange for almost two years and under the circumstances it seems shady at best that she didn’t think of moving to Berlin or literally anywhere else outside of the United States earlier than she did.  Let’s not forgot that in all her freaking paranoia seen in her documentary Risk (how appropriate) does she ever mention that her problems with the U.S. government, the airport stops, and her suspicions that she was under surveillance started because of an incident in Iraq and well before she ever started filming Assange.  Eh, but who wants to provide the sordid little details when they’re peddling an agenda, am I right?

It was shortly after Poitras moved to Berlin that the Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) was established.  However, before Wikileaks had to face the politically bias wrath of todays’ FPF board members, they faced a myriad of other events set up to sabotage Wikileaks and its publisher and what you’ll see is that some of the same characters they faced between 2010-2012 are the same characters that fund or sit on the board of FPF today.

 

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6 Comments

  1. Anonymous Anonymous February 22, 2018

    Trying to pick my jaw off the ground…

  2. […] Enfin, Sabina Menschel, qui, à ma connaissance, n’a jamais été directement impliquée dans l’opération Sabu, mais qui a commencé sa carrière comme conseillère spéciale à la Direction du renseignement du FBI à Washington D.C. avant de partir travailler pour les Krolls (comme tout le monde dans cette histoire) en tant qu’analyste de recherche. Elle a fini par accéder au poste de responsable mondial de la formation pour le département Business Intelligence and Investigations de K2 avant de quitter en 2015 pour devenir présidente et chef de l’exploitation de Nardello & Co., une société d’investigation dont la devise est ’We Find Out’ (Nous trouvons/découvrons). Elle est également l’épouse de Bill Priestap, le directeur du contre-espionnage du FBI, le superviseur immédiat de Peter Strzok et le confident de James Comey. Outre ses liens évidents avec le FBI et K2 Intelligence, Menschel est aussi la nièce de Robert Menscheldont j’ai déjà parlé (ici et ici), […]

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